The advice “follow your passion and the rest will come” always made me puke in my mouth a little. Perhaps I’m a dream killer or the mom who gives the cucumber sticks instead of lollipops in your lunchbox type of career coach. To me, passion without the right balance is crap. Whether preparing someone to make their first career move, prepping them to nail an interview, or helping them land a promotion, I learned that nothing replaces a good schtick. If you want a rewarding career or productive staff, it starts by defining and channeling value.
Experience working in career coaching showed me that some people get consumed by passion and lose sight of reality. Conversely, some people focus on reality and lose track of their soul. How do we avoid this?
Well, with a well thought out, Hillary Rodham Clinton-esque plan, of course. And a good schtick.
My passion is writing. As an English major, I learned about the unfortunate demise many writers met. I realized quickly that I wanted to earn a steady paycheck (lame, I know), and the opportunity to buy stuff from the real J. Crew and not just the Factory (yes, I am that basic). While writing never ended up being the passion I followed as a career, my writing skills ended up being the added value I brought to every job. It set me on a path to finding what I am really good at - helping people find their schtick, and communicating effectively in various ways.
Enough about me. How can you find your schtick?
First, think about yourself: I know it seems useless. However, think about how you go through the motions of your day. Even at your most mindful, are you thinking about you? What do you actually like to do? What do you do the best? When are you the most at ease? Self-assessment is crucial to finding your schtick and discovering real career fulfillment.
Write (or type) it down: Even if you are on the subway start writing down skills, interests, and values in your notes. Getting ideas outside of your head is crucial to making sense of them. Try to arrange things in order of priority to better refine your next steps. Send yourself mental notes via voice memo. I am 100% the crazy person talking to myself into my headphones as I am walking down the street, but it helps me keep track of my thought processes in the midst of the crazy day-to-day.
Evaluate your current job: What do you like? What don’t you like? Is the company great but the job just meh? Consider all of these factors and think about if there is another job out there that might be a better fit. Life’s too short for meh. We need to find work that “gets” us. If you could get an outfit perfectly tailored to you free of charge, you would. May as well try to put the effort into finding the job that’s the perfect fit. It costs you nothing to try.
Talk to people: Yes, actually talk to them. Identify folks in jobs that seem interesting to you. I’ll let you start on the internet by sending emails to contacts or former supervisors. I even encourage some light internet stalking (I mean researching) via LinkedIn. Set something up. Grab coffee. Ask them questions about themselves. Clients are always terrified of reaching out to people for a quick coffee chat. I get it. It’s transparent, and people are going to know you want their help and insight. Who cares? I often ask a timid networker what they would do if they were on the receiving end of the email. Would they help the person? Only one person ever said no. She was a jerk. The truth is, most people do want to help other people. Send the email. Pay for their coffee.
Find your schtick: You get it now! You’ve thought about what you need to do to be the most effective in your work, where you add your most value, and you talked to everyone on the internet about their jobs and found what seems interesting to you. Now go out there and land the job that’s best for you! Just kidding. This takes work and time. Much like anything in life once you think you figure it out, something else happens and you need to rethink it all. The most important thing to do is keep an open mind, know your worth, and be brave enough to try something new.
Stay tuned for webinars and podcasts that will walk you through even more steps needed to find your schtick. We'll share other people's stories, too. If you have an experience you’d like to share, please reach out to us at email@example.com.